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Nearly 155 Years After Lincoln's Death, Ford's Theatre Celebrates His Love of the Arts

April 14, 1865, was a day that shocked the nation. President Lincoln, joined by his wife Mary and two other guests, had tickets to see the comedic play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre. What started as a regular night out at the theater, one of Lincoln’s favorite pastimes soon became one of America’s darkest evenings.

There's something special about seeing a show in the iconic Ford's Theatre

John Wilkes Booth, a 26-year-old actor and Confederate sympathizer learned of the president’s plans to attend the play and saw an opportunity to carry out his plan of assassinating Lincoln. During the last act of the play, Booth entered the president’s box and fired a single bullet into Lincoln’s head. The president was rushed across the street to a nearby boarding house, where he died with his wife by his side.

There is no doubt that what happened at Ford’s Theatre is a tragedy—one that still captivates our country and historians today. The theater, however, hasn’t let one nefarious act become its legacy. It operates today, honoring the late President Lincoln’s love of the arts with productions and musicals all year long.

After Lincoln’s assassination, the theater sat empty for over 100 years—the city to grief-stricken and shocked to resume normal operations. In 1968, however, Ford’s Theatre was returned to its former glory, opening as a national historic site and fully-operating theater. Today, visitors can tour a museum dedicated to Lincoln’s life and assassination, numerous educational programs, and a variety of theatrical productions.

Ford's Theatre - New Year, new programming

Through Jan. 1, the theater will delight audiences with a beloved holiday tradition, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. With a festive musical score and beautiful period costumes, the Washington Post heralds the production as “infectiously jolly.”

In January, the theater takes on the story of pre-suffrage women in Silent Sky. It’s the story of Henrietta Leavitt and her team of fellow data scientists, who left an incredible footprint on the field of astronomy by discovering 2,400 new stars and paving the way for scientists to map the Milky Way and other galaxies. The story reflects the sacrifice and courage of female scientists in a field that men then dominated. The San Francisco Chronicle calls director Seema Sueko’s debut of Silent Sky at Ford’s Theatre “sheer magic.”

Following Silent Sky, the theater will present the classic musical comedy Guys and Dolls. The show will run from mid-March until late May. Directed by Peter Flynn, the show features a well-known ragtime score, including “Luck Be a Lady,” “Sit Down, “You’re Rocking the Boat,” and many more favorite songs.

No matter the genre or director, there is something almost magical about attending a show at Ford’s Theatre. The whole building feels alive with history—as if sitting in its seats is a time machine of sorts. With over 650,000 visitors each year, Ford’s Theatre continues to connect history to the modern world in ways that would certainly make President Lincoln proud.


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